Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Congressman Mike Michaud and others on the Penobscot River this morning to mark the beginning of the removal of the Great Works Dam.
"Years of court battles and fighting have given way to unprecedented cooperation, and the result is that 1,000 miles of the Penobscot River and it's tributaries will be open to sea-run salmon, alewives, shad and other fish," Pingree said. "Without that cooperation we wouldn't be standing here today."
The removal of the Great Works Dam, and another dam downstream in Veazie, are part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. The power industry, environmental groups, the Penobscot Nation and state and federal agencies worked together to create aplan to remove the dams. The agreement allows other hydroelectric projects to increase output, resulting in no net loss of power from the removal of the Penobscot River dams.
At today's event, Under Secretary of Commerce Eric Schwaab announced an additional $1 million in funding and Salazar announced another $2.5 million in funding to help finance the project.
"This is an investment in our local economy that will pay for itself many times over by supporting jobs in the recreational and commercial fisheries," Pingree said.
Pingree said the health of the Penobscot River has come along way in the last few decades.
"Back in the 80s and 90s the Penobscot was regularly on the list of the most endangered rivers in the country and now it's the subject of the largest-ever river restoration project in eastern North America," Pingree said. "That's progress and everyone here should be proud of how far we've come."